Saturday, August 25, 2007
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Somehow I find it difficult to write about books that I really loved. When a writer creates something truly beautiful, I want my review to be just as well written and it can’t be – I’m just not that great of a writer. So let me just say from the beginning that I loved Dreamland. I love Sarah Dessen’s books. She touches my heart.
Caitlin is the younger sister to the perfect child. Her older sister Cass was chosen to be homecoming queen, scored the winning goal in the soccer state championship, elected student body president, and accepted into Yale. There’s really no way for Caitlin to match up to all this perfection. And then, on Caitlin’s sixteenth birthday, Cass runs away from home to live in New York with her boyfriend.
Caitlin does the one thing that Cass never did – she tries out for cheerleading and makes the team. But even as she’s learning the routines and tumbling across the floor, she hates every moment of it. She is going through the routines of high school life, more for her mom than for herself. And then one night she meets Rogerson Biscoe. It is obvious from the beginning that Rogerson is a Rich Bad Boy – the type who is into drugs, sex, and rebellion. Rogerson sells pot to the local school crowd, and as he and Caitlin become a couple, it is clear that she is not going to be making the types of decisions that her parents would approve of.
Caitlin quickly begins to spiral down. She smokes pot with Rogerson and her friends, she skips class and cheerleading practice, and she lies to her parents about what she’s doing. Caitlin and Rogerson’s relationship becomes more and more physical and she begins to spend all of her time with him. Then one night, after she doesn’t show up to meet Rogerson, he hits her. And as shocked, and as hurt as she is, Caitlin takes it. “I could have just gotten out of the car and walked up to my house, leaving him behind for ever. Things would have been very different if I had done that. But the fact was that I loved Rogerson. it wasn’t just that I loved him, even: it was that I loved what I was when I was with him. Not a little sister, the pretty girl’s sidekick, the second runner-up. All I’d ever wanted was to make my own path, far from Cass’s. And even after what had happened, I wasn’t ready to give that up just yet.”
Rogerson controls Caitlin completely. Because she knows that he gets furious waiting for her, she is careful to be on time, to never let him see her talking with a boy, but still the beatings come. Caitlin has to keep her arms and legs covered at all times, so that no one will see the bruises. And she tells nobody what is going on with her.
I think this is the first book about dating abuse that I have read. I expected to identify with the victim, but I never expected to feel sympathy for Rogerson. He is bad and wrong and needs serious consequences, but he also needs a lot of help, and I felt sorry for him because I don’t think that he’ll get that help.